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The best places to run on the NJ shore share a common theme, they are immersed in the beautiful natural surroundings. Joe and I are Jersey born and raised, and damn proud of it. Being from New Jersey (or Jersey as most people from here call it, Jers as my friends and I refer to it) is no easy task. We are born on the defense against the many, many haters of this beautiful place we have been lucky enough to call home. After returning from five months abroad, we’ve set up shop near the beach for summer, and have been enjoying everything this teeny, tiny, part of the world has to offer. After spending the last four summers in the sweltering heat of NYC, we are taking full advantage of the ocean breeze around these parts, getting in some great runs.
Aside from being a great place for day trips from NYC, New Jersey is a destination within itself. With 9 National parks, a huge amount of protected lands, and a beach-filled coastline running from tip to tip, the state has so much to offer. Leave the turnpike out of it, we get it, it’s gross. Put the Jersey attitude aside, note: we’re not offended by it, we’re proud of it, and enjoy some of the best running spots in the tri-state area down at the shore (Jers speak for NJ beaches).
Before we get into this, just a note that we spend almost all of our NJ beach time in the northern part of the shore. For those reasons, all of our spots are located in this area. While I am sure there are many in the Southern part as well, we do not have direct experience with it and thus cannot make educated recommendations. This list will be updated as we continue to explore the New Jersey shore running scene.
The Best Places to Run at the NJ Shore
Asbury Park Boardwalk – 1 mile
Asbury Park, NJ
The iconic Asbury Park boardwalk has made a resurgence in the last decade, complete with a new investment post Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk is lively, with a better restaurant and bar scene than the other popular NJ ones. This short run is great for people-watching and ocean views, and the perfect place to end with a cocktail or snack at one of the many awesome food spots in town.
Manasquan Reservoir – 5 miles
Located about 12 miles inland from the coast, the Manasquan Reservoir perimeter loop borders the reservoir waterfront for 5 miles. The path is very well maintained, used for running, biking, and hiking. Regular sneakers are fine for this, it’s less trail running more flat running in the woods. The route switches between water views and total immersion into the forest.
Sandy Hook – 5+ miles
Sandy Hook, NJ
Gateway National Recreation Area houses Sandy Hook. It is nationally protected land making it one of the only places on the shore that there is no development. With miles of coastline, it is also often one of the less crowded spots, although that is changing some with the addition of day trippers off of the NYC ferry line. There is a paved multi-use path that runs for five miles, and additional sandy trails surrounding this one to extend the route if needed.
Capital to Coast Trail (Edgar Felix Bike Path portion) – 11 miles round trip
Manasquan to Allaire State Park, NJ
This multi-use path runs from the small shore town of Manasquan to beautiful Allaire State Park. One piece of what is planned to be a 55 mile long capital to coast trail running from Manasquan to Trenton, it is now a work in progress. The paved and well-maintained trail winds through woods, past open fields, and over the Garden State Parkway before it ends at the park. It can easily be extended by adding miles of trail running once inside the park.
Monmouth County Coastal Towns Training Run – 20 miles round trip
Monmouth County, NJ
Oh, the beloved marathon training runs. By the time we get to the 20+ mile ones, Joe and I are usually burnt out AF. So we try to make the best of them, like when we traveled all of Northern Manhattan on this training run when we were training for the New York City marathon. Likewise, we make shifted what ended up being a beautiful one on the NJ shore. For 20 miles, we ran through the towns of Manasquan, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and Belmar along the ocean. I found it to be a bit monotonous after a while, mostly just because I was cranky–it was exceptionally hot that day and I’m dramatic in the best of circumstances–but Joe liked it and I think most people would appreciate it if they don’t share my diva qualities. *Leave us a note in the comments if you are interested in the specifics of this route, if enough people are interested we’ll do an in-depth post on it.
Run the Beach
Anywhere, Any distance
Take to the sand from any town or spot bordering the coast and run as far and as long as your legs will take you. I’m a big fan of beach running. As someone who has been running for 20+ years, running on the sand challenges my muscles in new and complex ways. Plus it’s the easiest access point for my favorite way to end a summer run: charging fully clothed into the ocean and splashing about for a bit.
The NJ marathon
Asbury Park to Long Branch, NJ
Experience the best of what running at the Jersey Shore has to offer and sign up for the annual NJ marathon. Our first full marathon, and still one of my favorite races, the NJ marathon showcase the beauty of the Northern NJ coastline and is lined with some of the most fun spectators you can find. Mostly hanging out and partying in the early morning for the event, the cheering is wild and genuine giving the race a fun, relaxed vibe typical of the communities that call this area home.
Tips for Running at the NJ Shore
- Weekends are the enemy in the Summer – As with just about everything within a 100-mile radius of NYC in the summer, these spots get packed on the weekends. Head out early to attempt to avoid the crowds, but know that you are in the most densely populated state in the country, and it might be more about acceptance than avoidance for these runs.
- Many paths are shared – Watch for bikers and walkers wherever you are running.
- Hydrate! It gets hot in the summer but might not feel like it with a nice ocean breeze.